Series: Who is this Jesus?
‘He is… the firstborn over all creation… all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things.’ Colossians 1:15-17
I had only been pastoring a church for a few years when I was introduced to the wallet test. I was discussing with a more experienced fellow minister how best to introduce the congregation to a new way of approaching outreach. He said, “Of course you will only know if they believe it when they pass the wallet test.” I asked him what he meant and he patiently explained that he had found through years of pastoring that the real test of belief and commitment is when people are prepared to pay for something. I was shocked and argued that this was very ‘unspiritual’ and cynical. He smiled, shrugged and said, “You will learn soon enough.”
I have learned, although my understanding is not as cynical as that of my friend. I have learned that we reveal our true values and priorities through how we use our resources of time, talent and money. If something is important to us then we expend time and energy on it, or we allocate finances to it. Take for instance the schooling of our children. If good schooling is important to us then we buy the best education we can afford and sacrifice other lesser important things in order to be able to afford tuition fees. We also spend time involving ourselves in the education process by attending school meetings, checking homework, taking the children on educational outings, and so on.
So here is the question; if we claim that Jesus is number one in our lives, then does our use of resources support or give the lie to this contention? The scriptures declare that Jesus Christ is pre-eminent in all things. He has the rights of a firstborn son over the household of God, of which we are members. We are included in His creative plan and therefore we are made to be His. Theoretically, Jesus should have pre-eminence in our lives – but does He?
To truthfully respond to this question it is helpful to conduct a resources inventory. Construct a pie chart of your budget and note the percentage spend in the various areas. How do these percentages reflect on the pre-eminence of Jesus in your life? Do something similar with your time. Analyse a typical week and determine where your discretionary times goes. You can ignore the reasonable time required by your employer because that translates into money, and you have already analysed your spending pattern. You can also conduct a similar exercise on the use of your talent. You have abilities, experiences, and giftings – where do you deploy them?
I have to concede that my friend was partially right and that the wallet test does give at least a strong indication of our true values and priorities. I am not suggesting that it is as simple as it may appear. At different times of our lives we have various priorities that demand our resources. For instance, family is important and we would be violating the scriptures if we neglected our responsibilities to our aging parents or our young children. By the way, this is one of the reasons I am not in favour of legalistic tithing to the church. But whether it is the church, parents, children, or whatever else is urgent, there is always someone else who is most important of all… Jesus. However we allocate our resources, it should be in consultation with Him. “Lord Jesus, I want to honour you in everything I do, and I want to evidence your pre-eminence in my life through how I spend my time, talent and money. This is how I see my obligations, dreams, and challenges at this time. Does my allocation of resources to them reflect your pre-eminence in my life Lord?”
Frank Viola writes in Revise Us Again, ‘Only a recovery of the greatness, supremacy, sovereignty, brilliance, and “allness” of Christ will lead us to restoration and even revival. The wonder of Jesus as “all in all” is the only hope for igniting the flame of a new reformation and resuscitating a church that’s presently on life support.’